IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Lewis limbers up for toughest fight yet

Lennox Lewis last week emerged from 16 years in the much-maligned world of professional boxing with his dignity and credibility intact. So it might strike some as odd that he has chosen a new career in sports management, a profession scarcely renowned at present for its good public image. 
Lewis Lennox Press Conference
‘Too often, athletes are financially exploited by managers and promoters and victimised by the corruption that pervades their sport,’ Lennox Lewis said.Andrew Redington / Getty Images
/ Source: Financial Times

Lennox Lewis last week emerged from 16 years in the much-maligned world of professional boxing with his dignity and credibility intact. So it might strike some as odd that he has chosen a new career in sports management, a profession scarcely renowned at present for its good public image. 

Most agents no doubt view much current criticism as unfair, but Lewis himself is highly critical of some sports managers. 

"Too often, athletes are financially exploited by managers and promoters and victimised by the corruption that pervades their sport," he says. 

He believes that sport in general, and boxing in particular, needs more people with "a commitment to the highest ethical standards", and that is what he intends to provide in his new role as director of the Sports Entertainment and Media Group. 

"I want to help promote a new face of sport," he says in an exclusive interview with The Financial Times. "Sport with honesty, sport with integrity, and to make it my business to help athletes rather than just take from them." 

Lewis does not begin his new career with a radical plan to transform the industry but rather believes the knowledge and experience gained as he navigated a successful path through the circus that is heavyweight boxing can be used to help others. 

He also knows that as a hugely successful fighter who left the ring with his health and reputation unimpaired and an estimated £70m fortune, he is a credible role model to aspiring stars. This applies to all sports. Lewis, accordingly, will not restrict himself to working with boxers alone. 

Lewis also believes that his personal wealth should convince athletes that they can trust him. "They should know that they can depend on me because I don't need to make money from them as I have more than enough of that. But I can help them through all the positives and negatives of their career and help them to achieve their goals," he says. 

Sport has a unique ability to make young men very rich very quickly and Lewis believes that the temptations that come with instant celebrity contain within them the risk of a derailed career. 

"It's like a day and night situation. You are asking a young athlete who has never had money and suddenly gets a load and doesn't know what to do with it, to then live with discipline and focus," he says. 

To cope with the demands on their time many athletes turn their commercial affairs over to agents and advisers, but Lewis believes this is a mistake. "I have learned from being in boxing for such a long time that you have to be involved in all aspects of your career, not just the training but the business side as well. You need to know and understand what's going on there and take responsibility for the management of your own career," he says. 

Lewis achieved both in his career, winning 41 of 44 professional bouts and managing his business affairs wisely, latterly in concert with SEM. 

Whether the skills that made him heavyweight champion will translate easily into sports management remains to be seen. He scaled the heights by being relentlessly focused on his own ambition, but must now adjust his focus to the demands of others. 

Very few of the obstacles he has faced in his career have proved insurmountable, including Mike Tyson, but restoring honesty and integrity to a tainted trade may prove the toughest fight of all.